Case Study of Governors Island

Project background

Governors Island, a 172-acre island in New York Harbor, is known for its historic importance as a former military base and its appeal to day trippers from New York City. In 2010, ownership of the island was transferred from the State of New York to The Trust for Governors Island, whose mandate is to redevelop the island in phases. Part of that redevelopment involves a complete, and long overdue, overhaul of the island’s electrical infrastructure. Enter Syska as the prime consultant for electrical master planning, electrical engineering services, electrical infrastructure upgrades, and IT/telecommunications.

Challenges and Solutions

The systems that Syska designed had to be reliable and flexible to 1) minimize future maintenance costs, and 2) maximize safety. But options were limited because Governors Island is a national historic landmark, and its visual character must be preserved.

Syska’s solution was to add capacity to the power feeders to Governors Island, which enables future upgrades. The feeders currently operate at 5kV but can handle as much as 27kV. Furthermore, Syska increased resiliency by ensuring that even if two of four incoming utility feeders fail, operations can continue. Extra redundancy will eventually come from medium-voltage generators situated on the southern part of the island.

To avoid disruptions to the island’s daily operations, Syska identified and detailed methods of rerouting and reconfiguration, much of which could be completed after hours and on weekends.

Because the main switchgear building is located not only in a flood zone but also in the historic zone, Syska’s plans called for reinforcement of the existing building’s walls, sump pumps to handle minor water seepage, and an elevated platform to house additional medium-voltage equipment.

Results and Next Steps

Today thousands of people can enjoy visits to Governors Island without fear of being stranded on the island because of a power failure. And Harbor High School, which holds classes on the island, has experienced no interruptions from power failures, which frequently occurred in the past.

More improvements are in store: Syska’s Information Communication & Technology (ICT) group is now assisting with a master plan for the island’s telecommunications, surveying the existing telecom systems, and designing an outside telecom plant.

If you visit Governors Island, you won’t notice any evidence of Syska’s hard work. That means we’ve done a good job. So enjoy!


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